Sunday, September 30, 2007


It's that time of week again. Not that I've been consistent about it at all....Sans has been sick all weekend. We won't go into any nasty details. Mugwump is his usual happy-go-lucky self, and Sixpence is full of smiles and mischief, like always. Here are some pics of some of the things we've been up to lately.

I took the boys on a hike (OK, maybe we've been on a few in the last couple weeks - I can't resist!) and we had a great time. This was before they started using themselves as bulldozers on the dusty trail.
OK, so it's not the best picture, but I couldn't resist putting one in of both boys dressed up.

Last week we learned about construction, so we used gumdrops, marshmallows, and toothpicks to build things. Mugwump built a bridge, a tower, and here he is working on a house. He learned that gumdrops make the best structures because they're not as flimsy as the marshmallows. Sixpence just ate lots of marshmallows.

Can you tell he's having a good time? I am so grateful (thinking of Sans' last post) for my happy, healthy kids who (most of the time) get along with each other. They're awesome!

- TV Free

Thursday, September 27, 2007


OK, I was on a role moving toward how bikes were going to take over the world and leave automobile drivers in a crumpled heap, begging for mercy, but I decided to go in a different direction. I was over at No Impact Man and he had a wonderful blog about gratitude and I want to copy it. Normally I don't like it when people sort of copy blogs, but his entry made me take a step back and think of what I'm grateful for. It's a rough semester and at times I think I would be grateful for a lot more if I didn't spend 17 hours a day at school staring at this stupid computer. So I'm going to take an opportunity every week to make a short list of things that I'm thankful for. And frankly, this is completely different than No Impact Man's blog because I"m not grateful for his wife, daughter or dog, although I'm sure they're wonderful.

My wife who is supportive even after she spends the entire day with no help with the kids.

The time that I get to spend with my boys when I get home from school. It's not a lot, but I'm REALLY grateful for those moments.

Venus. It's super bright right now on the Eastern horizon every morning on my way to school. It reminds me of the eternities and my place in this world.

The owl that buzzes my head every time I forget to look for him on my way in to school.

The rabbit that runs across the road when I ring my bell.

An idea for a dissertation topic that is both realistic and something that I'm excited to do.

An endless list of things I'm thankful for. I could go on forever, but I'm not going to... I have to save some for next week.

What are you thankful for? I know that not many people read this blog, but I want all of the lurkers to post at least one thing you are thankful for. You can do it anonymously, but one of the greatest things I'm thankful for is positive people in the world. Even when life is hard, there is a lot to be thankful for. Share it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The fall of a king

My last post involved a video of water buffaloes versus lions and the intent was to demonstrate that just because the lion has always been "king" doesn't mean that it always wins (if you haven't watched it, you should, it's a good one). There is power in working together toward a good cause. Here is another youtube clip. While NYC might be considered "wildlife" this is a clip cyclists taking over the city. It's called critical mass.

I do want to make it clear that I understand what critical mass has come to be (a sort of anarchist party revolving around smoking pot and getting drunk), and I don't support that. I support the principle. In fact, it took a little searching to find a video on youtube that didn't include cyclists being rude and destructive. That's unfortunate.

The idea that if enough people are bound together for a good cause (less cars, more bikes), they can disrupt the norm and lead toward change. For an even better example of the power of numbers, visit Vertigo, he had a great post today of a video from Amsterdam.

Some day I'll figure out how to embed video. I did it once before, but whenever I try now, it seems that youtube won't let me. Oh well.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Power in numbers

Busted. I got caught wasting time on You Tube. So the result is a great video about the power of numbers. Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself or your kids. To watch the video, click here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Half-empty optimism

I went to a talk over the weekend on transportation. Blah, blah, blah. It wasn't interesting. The speaker said one thing that caught my attention. She said that parking lots can be found half empty.

That got me to thinking. I have always liked being a "glass half full" type of guy. Why? Because I like to be seen as optimistic and I like to think that I really do want to see the brighter side of things. But wait, isn't it better if a parking lot is empty? That means people didn't drive there, and that would be good.

This opened a huge can of worms. Have I been tricked all this time? (I think I have). Is this whole "glass half full" bit all about more being better? I think it is.

I always see the metaphorical "glass" as being full of water. Water is good and people don't drink enough, so more water is better. But what if that "glass" is half full of kool-aid? Really there shouldn't be any kool-aid in there at all, that stuff will kill you. So in that case, wouldn't it be optimistic to think of the glass as half empty?

So here it is, I now see the glass as half empty and I'm optimistic about it. I think the glass is full of stuff and I don't think that having more of it is going to be better in any way. In fact, I want less. I want to rely less on the stuff in the glass so that we can live in a sustainable world. I am also optimistic that we, as a society, can think outside of the box and make change toward being better. Minus is the new Plus.

Friday, September 14, 2007

A good use for money

For the second time this week, I left to go home, only to find that my bike had a flat tire. Tuesday was a puncture, yesterday I had a little hole in the tire which caused the inner-tube to pop. Because of the size of the hole in the tire, a new inner-tube would not have fixed the problem (the tube sort of leaks out of the hole and pops). I needed to fix it, but I didn't have a spare tire with me, only tubes. I had heard of using dollar bills before, but I had never actually seen it done. So I pulled out my wallet and grabbed a one dollar bill and put it inside the tire, over the hole. I then put in a new tube and it worked like a charm. In fact, i didn't have a chance to change the tire last night, so I'm still riding on it.

I was also proud of the tube I put in. It wasn't a new tube, I went through all of my new tubes on Tuesday when I ended up staying up late fixing inner-tubes because they all had holes in them (there were 5 that I fixed that night). During my inner-tube repair marathon on Tuesday, i ran out of patches. Of course the patch kits come with plenty of vulcanizing solution (some people call it glue, but really it isn't), but not enough patches. So I cut up an old inner-tube and used those for patches. You see, that is the beauty of vulcanizing solution, it isn't glue, it actually melts the rubber on the inner-tube and allows it to dry and chemically bond to the patch. If I use an inner-tube as a patch, then, theoretically, it should work. As I already said, I'm still riding on last night's repair job, so using an old piece of inner-tube works great for patching punctures.

Now I'm going to try to stop getting flats, I think that would work far better.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


I wrote the most incredible post yesterday... and then Google ate it. Come on, I expect that from Microsoft, but Google? Anyway, I'm going to try again. This one will likely be shorter because I'm lacking on time.

I saw this picture over at no impact man and thought it was quite fitting. So I've been watching my kids and thinking of their interactions. The one thing that brings me the most happiness and pride in my life is to see them sharing and interacting. Really, it happens sometimes. Seeing the Mugwump (older child) take Six-pence (younger child) a toy or water bottle and just give it to him. You ask why he did that and he responds, "because it looked like he wanted it." Those are the moments when it is great to be a parent. Sure, I live in a home where the kids spend plenty of time fighting over toys, water bottles are access to a kitchen chair, and those are the moments that bring me the greatest headaches.

So sharing, that principle that most emphasized in preschool is really what brings me the greatest happiness. Looking beyond my kids, those moments when someone stops to offer me a hand with a flat tire or invites me to share a meal with them. Those are the moments that mean the most to me. Yet what happens after preschool? Kids don't need supplies in preschool, everything is provided and everything is shared (that's how I remember it anyway, and I went to A LOT of preschool). Kindergarten, on the other hand, you have to have your OWN supplies and we have our OWN desk and we start in with ownership. By high school, you have your OWN locker to store your OWN stuff and your OWN parking spot to park your OWN car. Why do we move away from sharing? (To be fair, I had to share a locker in high school, but I did have my own parking spot).

So what could we share now? How about a lawn mower and garden tools, or even tools in general. How many times have you gone for a walk around the block and noticed everyone using a hammer at the same time? Couldn't the block all share one or two hammers? Why do we each have our own? Lawn Mowers are a little different story because everyone mows their lawn on Saturday morning. Couldn't we sort of stagger that and share a lawnmower? I'm impressed on our block, the neighbor kids mow several lawns in the neighborhood so they can save up money. I think it's great, that way the neighbor kids have one lawnmower and they mow many lawns. Realistically, we could just share the one lawnmower. Could we also share a car? I know that my family could, if we found the right family to share with, but it would take a little planning.

So why don't we share anymore? I'll give it to you in one word... Inconvenience. I'll give you another word that comes to mind... Greed. Right, we need to have our own lawnmower, otherwise we couldn't mow the lawn on Saturday morning when we normally do. We might have to wait to mow the lawn or actually communicate with others in organizing when we will mow the lawn. That would be completely unacceptable (I'm not sure why, but it seems to be). Imagine if we shared all garden tools amongst a small group. That group would be forced to communicate with one another. We could build bonds among our neighbors. Sure, when Dave up the street decides to use the pruning sheers to cut wire, the group gets upset because he has ruined the sheers. But you know what, that doesn't have to be the end of a relationship. We don't have to hate Dave because he broke the sheers, the sheers are replaceable and we can teach him about wire cutters. That's another thing I like seeing my kids doing, solving problems, why don't adults do that any more? I'll give you another word to think about... Pride.

So I want to talk about that picture. Let's look at the big picture (not the picture at the top of the page, but the metaphorical picture). There are things that we are forced to share. The air, the land, water and public space are all great examples. If we don't share nicely it leads to problems. It leads to bigger problems than we expect. For example, I don't like it when passing motorists use the air I'm breathing to exhaust their cars. That makes for air that is hard to breathe. I know, I'm the only one inconvenienced by that... I'm sure the driver of the car didn't mind at all (that's why all cars should be exhausted into the driver's compartment). Let's look at the bigger picture. Did you know that car exhaust is closely linked to cardiovascular disease deaths and asthma? Do you know any children with asthma? Do you have any loved ones who have died of a heart attack? Do you know that your driving contributed to that? If we continue to "progress" by increasing streets and increasing driving, we may see that picture at the top of the page.

Sorry that turned into doom and gloom, I have a different perspective. Get out and enjoy nature. Do your best to share it with others. One of the best way of doing that is sharing resources. Sure it may be less convenient if you don't have your own, but consider it an opportunity to get to know someone better.

Friday, September 7, 2007


First off, thanks for people who took the survey. Evidently I have more than 2 readers, I have about 14 that took the survey before I gave it to Fatty who got me hundreds of responses. If you have contacts with anyone who you think would be willing to post the survey, please contact me. The more people who take it, the better. And if you would like to take it, click here.

Now I want to talk a bit about my younger son. We call him six-pence... or was it sick-spence. Anyway he is about 20 months old and he's really developing in character. I've just got three examples of this guy making me laugh.

1) This morning I was eating breakfast and Six-pence wandered out of our room (when did he get there?) with half closed eyes and a head bobbing around like it was going to pull him to the floor and back to sleep any second. I saw him coming, so I picked him up and tried to get him back to sleep. He started screaming because that wasn't what he wanted. (He communicates quite well for not being able to talk.) So I put him in his high chair, thinking he might want to eat with me (he likes to eat). He sat there with a bobbing head and half closed eyes while I finished my breakfast. Then he got out of his high chair, went back into our bedroom and fell back asleep with mom. Evidently, I needed company for breakfast.

2) Yesterday Six-pence expressed that he was done eating by squirming around and not eating any more. So my wife got him cleaned up and put him down. Then he was hovering around his chair screaming. So my wife puts him back in his high chair. He didn't eat, he just made another mess and expressed again that he was done eating. Again my wife cleaned him up and put him down. Yet again he hovered around the high chair screaming. So my wife handed him his plate, which he took over to the dishwasher and put it in. Then he went off and played happily. (somehow the part where he smeared the ketchup and mustard all over the front of his shirt missed the story). So whatever you do, don't neglect your children by not letting them clear their place.

3) I don't know that the story will do this justice, I think you had to see the look on his face, but I'm going to try anyway. In our house we don't really use matching bed sheets. Whatever is on top goes on the bed. That means that I use a green pillowcase and my wife uses one that is grey with blue stripes. Coincidentally, Six-pence uses the other pillowcase from the set my wife's is from, so they match. Except my wife usually has an additional pillowcase over hers so you can't see the blue and grey striped one (it's the really soft pillowcase I made her for Christmas last year). Anyway, it was time to launder the soft pillowcase, so she took it off. Six-pence had been playing in our room and knew that "his" pillow was in there. We went through the bedtime routine of brushing teeth, stories, scriptures and prayers. It was time for the horse back ride to bed, but Spencer was screaming and pointing toward our room. He went in and got my wife's pillow and took it back into his bedroom. When he arrived he noticed that his pillow was already there. The look on his face was priceless. He knew that he had just gone to get "his" pillow, how could it already be there? It's so much fun to watch them learn.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Transportation survey

I noticed that I haven't been writting as much as normal. That is probably why my readership fell by 50% (from 4 to 2). So the reason that I haven't been writting is because I have been busy. Busy with school, work, home repairs, etc. Yesterday I got approval to officially start the survey that I've been working on for quite some time.

If you are over the age of 18 and work outside of the home, I am interested in why you choose the modes of transportation that you choose. Please click here to take the survey. This is the first place I'm posting this link, but I intend to ask many others to post it as well. If you are interested, feel free to post the link on your blog, but first, if you could let me know (anonymously) that the survey worked (or didn't) that would be great. I may also be contacting you shortly to ask you to post this link

In a couple of days I will post again about something a little more interesting.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Being wrong... or unsure.

Do you know what I hate? Being wrong. Do you know what I hate even more than being wrong? Having others know that I'm wrong or having it pointed out to me. Some people seem to be OK with this. Some people have this ability to even admit that they have made mistakes and to tell others about them. My wife does this. I admire her (and anyone else who is able to openly admit mistakes) for being open and confident enough to admit mistakes. I wish I were more like that.

The other day I was doing something in the driveway and a neighbor from down the street approached me. We really don't know this particular neighbor all that well, so as he approached I was sort of excited to talk with him. Well he came to tell me that my chestnut trees were dying because I wasn't watering them. Then he left. As far as conversations go and getting to know neighbors, it was an utter disappointment. In fact, it sort of made me mad.

This is the point where I want to defend myself and say that I wasn't wrong... but I don't know that would be totally truthful. We have three chestnut trees in our yard that have always turned brown (and quite sickly looking) well before fall arrives (like June). I was of the impression that this was due to a tree disease, but I could be wrong. It could also be due to a tree disease that could be virtually eliminated by adequate water. In the end, I am pretty sure that watering the trees more regularly (or at least a couple of times) could have helped the trees.

So I was wrong, but I had some reasoning behind it. Unfortunately it is reasoning that I'm not completely sure about. For starters, the chestnut trees are horse chestnut trees, so the nuts are poisonous. What good is a poisonous nut? Then when the nuts fall, they fall in a spiky shell that stays in our yard leaving it quite inhospitable. As my wife and I talk about fixing up our house, we talk frequently about the yard. We are currently working on killing weeds so we can put in a front lawn. While I don't especially want to waste water on a front lawn, it will make the house look better, and the odds of us moving within a few years is pretty high. So I'm going against what I truly believe in order to improve resale value. I'm a sell-out and I hate it when I do that. If I were to really want to have grass somewhere, it would be in the back yard where my boys would be more likely to play in it. We haven't started that process because of the spiky things that make the back yard extremely painful to walk in. Since there is no grass in the back yard, we certainly haven't been watering it. And we haven't been going out of our way to water the trees (whose roots are under the "lawn" in the back yard) because they are the problem with the back yard. So the trees are dying.

Here's another issue that I have. Trees are essential for consuming carbon dioxide and cleaning pollution out of the air. I am all for trees and not depleting forests in order to maintain the air quality in our environment. I am also aware that imported trees often consume far more water than their native counterparts, which contributes to the drought conditions we are experiencing and plummeting water tables. So what is worse, wasting water to keep the trees healthy, or letting the trees die and wasting big carbon dioxide consumers that are needed in the area? Frankly, I think that I should be conserving the water and that people should drive less and use less electricity so that we didn't have the air pollution problems, but that's not our current situation, is it?

Earlier this week, my wife asked about my ultimate life, where we would be and what we would be doing. I told her I didn't know... and I still don't. Here's the thing. I am studying how the built environment influences transportation habits and health of a community and the members of that community. Sprawl is destroying the fabric of America and I know that it needs to change. But then when I think of my dream life, I think of living sustainably off the land. I want to live off the grid with a big enough garden and other resources (a pond?) to provide for all of life's essentials. I am also a realist, so I want my sustainable farm to be close enough to a city that I could haul my goods to a nearby city in a trailer pulled by my bike. If I needed to have a job, I would be able to ride my bike to it. This is the definition of the sprawl that I am battling to prevent. Does it make it OK for me to want to sprawl because I want to ride a bike and sell produce to the city, but it's wrong for my neighbor because he wants to drive a car and have a big lawn? I don't know the answer to that, but it doesn't feel right. Ideally, cities would all be relatively small and compact, yet surrounded by small farms providing local food to all the members of the city. That's just not how things are.

I think that being unsure may even be worse than being wrong. I try to live according to my conscience, and I know I make mistakes. Sure I'm ashamed of those, but even worse is not knowing the path I should take because of the imperfect world in which we live.